Nathan MacKinnon is the NHL’s hottest player and the biggest reason the Colorado Avalanche are the league’s hottest team.
MacKinnon scored twice and added an assist as the Avalanche won their eighth consecutive game, a 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night in Denver. Colorado last won eight straight games during the 2005-06 season.
Colorado goalie Jonathan Bernier, who has been carrying the load while starter Semyon Varlamov is on the shelf due to injury, won his career-best seventh consecutive start with a 45-save performance. However, there were some tense moments as the Avalanche saw a 4-0 lead nearly completely evaporate at the Pepsi Center.
Thanks to MacKinnon, Colorado had just enough offensive punch. The first overall pick in the 2013 draft scored a pair of first-period goals just 58 seconds apart to give his team an early edge. He also had a hand in Mikko Rantanen’s goal 94 seconds into the middle frame that gave Colorado a four-goal lead.
MacKinnon has scored in four consecutive games and is riding an eight-game point scoring spree in which he has collected seven goals and 17 points. Rantanen also had a three-point game.
However, much of the final half of the game was a nail biter for the Avalanche, who have scored first in all eight victories during their streak.
Timo Meier gave the Sharks a much-needed jolt when he put them on the board in the second period, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Joe Thornton tallied early in the third period to draw the visitors within one. Thornton’s goal was the 396th of his career, which ties him with Dave Keon and Paul Coffey for 96th on the NHL’s all-time list. Thornton is 17th on the all-time points list with 1,424.
Matt Nieto’s goal with 3:14 remaining iced the game for the Avalanche. Carl Soderberg also scored for Colorado.
Martin Jones stopped 17 shots for the Sharks, who fired 38 shots in Bernier’s direction over the final two periods but saw their three-game winning streak end.
--Field Level Media